Beneath the Cross of Jesus
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
and are so far from my cry and from the words of my distress?
O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer;
by night as well, but I find no rest.
Yet you are the Holy One, enthroned upon the praises of Israel.
Our forefathers put their trust in you; they trusted, and you delivered them.
They cried out to you and were delivered;
they trusted in you and were not put to shame.
But as for me, I am a worm and no man,
scorned by all and despised by the people.
All who see me laugh me to scorn;
they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying,
“He trusted in the Lord; let him deliver him;
let him rescue him, if he delights in him.”
Yet you are he who took me out of the womb,
and kept me safe upon my mother’s breast.
I have been entrusted to you ever since I was born;
you were my God when I was still in my mother’s womb.
Be not far from me, for trouble is near,
and there is none to help.
Many young bulls encircle me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me.
They open wide their jaws at me,
like a ravening and a roaring lion.
I am poured out like water; all my bones are out of joint;
my heart within my breast is melting wax.
My mouth is dried out like a pot-sherd; my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
and you have laid me in the dust of the grave.
Packs of dogs close me in, and gangs of evildoers circle around me;
they pierce my hands and my feet; I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them; they cast lots for my clothing.
Be not far away, O Lord;
you are my strength; hasten to help me.
Save me from the sword,
my life from the power of the dog.
Save me from the lion’s mouth,
my wretched body from the horns of wild bulls.
I will declare your Name to my brethren;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.
Praise the Lord, you that fear him;
stand in awe of him, O offspring of Israel; all you of Jacob’s line, give glory.
For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty; neither does he hide his face from them;
but when they cry to him he hears them.
My praise is of him in the great assembly;
I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.
The poor shall eat and be satisfied, and those who seek the Lord shall praise him:
“May your heart live for ever!”
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.
For kingship belongs to the Lord;
he rules over the nations.
To him alone all who sleep in the earth bow down in worship;
all who go down to the dust fall before him.
My soul shall live for him; my descendants shall serve him;
they shall be known as the Lord’s for ever.
They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn
the saving deeds that he has done.
Each year on Good Friday we stand once again beneath the cross of Jesus and hear his cry anew, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” While we will hear the passion according to John as part of our Good Friday liturgy, the texts from Matthew and Mark do not hesitate to show Jesus in the utter agony of feeling forsaken as he faces a terrible, violent death.
Their narratives show us the human Jesus who entered fully into our human condition. Jesus’ suffering begins in fact, not on the cross, but in the garden of Gethsemane. And it’s made greater by the failure of his own disciples to remain awake and pray with him. In the end he has to face this agony alone. He’s even forsaken by his faithful disciples at the last moment. It’s impossible to imagine the depths of pain, of desolation, Jesus must have been feeling as he takes his last breath. Jesus’ choice of Psalm 22 is not random. He knew this psalm and quoted its first words to identify with us in our suffering. He knew that even though there was a chasm fixed between him and God, one caused by the sins of the world, God is a God who can be trusted. Jesus’ death is part of the plan set in motion by God from the beginning. God is still sovereign, even if he seemed distant, even if it seemed that God has abandoned Jesus. For us, in our humanness, death is dark and scary and real.
Even though we believe and trust in God, death can cause fear and anguish. It is important for us to remember that Jesus does not bring us deliverance from death but deliverance through death. Nothing about Good Friday will allow us to deny the reality of death, but we know that today is not the end of the story. Victory over death is near. But today, we are called to enter into the story of Jesus’ experience on Calvary as we stand in the shadow of Jesus’ brutal death. So for now, we remain in this moment of suspended time. We watch, we grieve, we mourn, and we hope in God’s saving power – all beneath the cross of Jesus.
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, p 99)